Statement by Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, on prisoners remanded at HMP Dodds.
I wish to provide an update on the issue which surfaced on Thursday last week, when it was revealed that prisoner, Winston Agard, was on remand since 2012 without being brought before the Courts.
It was also stated that he wished to plead guilty to the charge which had been laid against him, and that he might have been on remand in prison for a longer time than he would have served on pleading guilty.
I met with the senior prisons management, the senior management of my ministry, as well as with the Chairperson of the Prisons Advisory Board, Cicely Chase, Q.C.
We vetted a list of prisoners who have been on remand for over two years without their case being brought before the Courts. Some of these persons have been granted bail, but have been unable so far to meet the conditions of bail set by the Courts.
Some of the other prisoners falling within this category are presently serving sentences for crimes for which they were convicted, and would therefore not be eligible to be released in any event.
There are, however, less than a handful of persons who have been on remand for more than two years without their cases being before the Courts, and either whose earlier sentences have recently expired, or who are not serving any sentence at the present time.
These persons now need to be provided with the opportunity to come before the Courts, and to plead guilty, or otherwise be given a trial hearing.
I have provided the Attorney General with the list of these prisoners. We can assure the public that the appropriate authorities will work assiduously to ensure that these persons will be brought before the Courts in the shortest time possible so that justice can be served.
I accept that the situation which came to light last week was a travesty which ought not to happen in our nation. It is no excuse to say that it happens over longer periods in more developed countries than ours.
I have already instructed the prisons management to put a system in place whereby the authorities responsible for bringing prisoners to trial will be informed periodically of any similar cases in the future.
In the meantime, the reinstitution of the Plea and Direction Hearings, which were established under the tenure of Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, perhaps need to take place.
Under this process, all prisoners were summoned to appear before the Courts at the start of each legal year in September, and allowed to plead guilty if they wished, or be informed as to the process which their case will take.